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First-Level Spellbook

October 31st, 2007

Here’s something that may not be your own cup of polyjuice potion, but which tickled me: The Practical Guide to Monsters. Turns out that game publisher Wizards of the Coast has a kids’ book imprint called Mirrorstone which, among other things, publishes several series of youth-oriented novels aimed at the Harry Potter crowd. This particular volume is a sequel to their Practical Guide to Dragons, which detailed the spectrum of Dungeons & Dragons drakes.

What’s nifty about this book is that it draws on D & D‘s intellectual property without calling attention to the RPG tie-in. All of the critters within are straight out of the various Monster Manuals, but the book itself is written as if it’s something one might find in the Hogwart’s library, with an informal style and even scrawled margin notes.

I’m a big fan of “in-universe” sci-fi/fantasy reference books: volumes that appear to have been published within the fictional worlds they profile. I enjoy being pulled that little bit deeper into the fantasy.

Overall, I was very pleased with the book. Thanks to the wider variety of subject matter, it avoids being as repetitive as the Practical Guide to Dragons. While it does occasionally snitch previously-published Monster Manual artwork, most of the illustrations are new. I’m especially fond of the depictions of the creatures’ lairs; as a kid, I loved maps like that, with labyrinths of rooms to fuel my imagination.

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